Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Wednesday strongly defended the government’s decision to control wheat and sugar exports, saying the steps were necessary keeping in mind the domestic requirements and a need to keep hoarders and speculators in check who could have exploited vulnerable poor nations by selling them the commodities at higher prices.
Asked about the decisions during a session on global trade at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, Goyal said a lot of misconceptions are doing the rounds on this issue and he also had separate discussions with the World Trade Organization chief as well as the International Monetary Fund head on this here in Davos.
With the WTO chief sitting next to him in the panel, Goyal said India traditionally has never been an exporter of grains and was rather importing initially, till the Green Revolution happened.
“Still, for the last many years we were only producing for our own consumption, and it was only two years ago that we began to export after a surplus production, that too of a nominal quantity,” he said.
“Also, most of our wheat went to poor countries. Unfortunately, there was a climate problem last year due to which our wheat production fell sharply and we had to draw from our food security reserves,” he said.
“At the same time, we saw that the speed at which wheat was going out, we had to intervene to regulate the wheat export and we also thought we must check middlemen who could procure from India and then sell at high prices to poor countries. We are still ready to help vulnerable countries if the WTO regulations allow that,” he said.
“We have to take care of our food security requirements as it was this reserve that helped us ensure food availability for our poor people during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he emphasised.
In sugar too India’s total export was 10 million tonnes and we have said that we will continue to look at that level but we would ensure that speculators and hoarders are put under check, Goyal said.
“Different countries at different points of time have to take extraordinary measures to safeguard the interest of their people,” he said.
Asked about India deciding to import oil from Russia, Goyal said the government has made it very clear that the quantity of oil imported from Russia was only a fraction of what was being bought by Europe and that the decision did not violate any of the sanction conditions.
WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the food crisis is real and the world is facing a difficult position. She hoped that the Russia-Ukraine war would end soon for the difficulties to abate.